‘Single-Use’ Is Collins Dictionary’s Word of the Year
2018 saw the fight against plastic pollution amp up in a big way. Britain's Queen Elizabeth II led the charge by banning plastic bottles and straws from royal estates in February, and everyone from airlines like Alaska to cities like Seattle have followed her into the fray.
Much of the plastic backlash has focused specifically on "single-use" plastics like straws and shopping bags that are designed to be used once and then discarded, so it makes a lot of sense that Collins Dictionary chose "single-use" as its 2018 word of the year.
BREAKING! The Collins Word of the Year 2018 is... single-use ♻️ Discover the full shortlist & find out more:… https://t.co/8Us6rY1Egb— Collins Dictionary (@Collins Dictionary)1541574023.0
Collins was clear about the environmental implications of its choice when it announced the winner on its website:
'Single-use,' a term that describes items whose unchecked proliferation are blamed for damaging the environment and affecting the food chain, has been named Collins' Word of the Year 2018.
Single-use refers to products—often plastic—that are 'made to be used once only' before disposal. Images of plastic adrift in the most distant oceans, such as straws, bottles, and bags have led to a global campaign to reduce their use.
The word has seen a four-fold increase since 2013, with news stories and images such as those seen in the BBC's Blue Planet II steeply raising public awareness of the issue.
Collins' staff of lexicographers monitors 4.5 billion words in order to select its yearly choice. This year, the adjective beat out a variety of topical choices that ranged from light-hearted to serious.
Other contenders included MeToo, Floss (a victory dance associated with the game Fortnite, gaslight, and other environmental words vegan and plogging, "a recreational activity, originating in Sweden, that combines jogging with picking up litter."
When did you last go #plogging? @CollinsDict #WordOfTheYear #CollinsWOTY https://t.co/CVjFnlgDgV— Scriberia Ltd (@Scriberia Ltd)1541601031.0
"This year, environmental issues rise to the top with words such as 'single-use' and 'plogging,' accompanied by political movements, dance trends and technology," the dictionary wrote in a blog post.
2016's word was Brexit and 2017's was "fake news," The Guardian pointed out, so 2018's choice does suggest that the environment is starting to get the public recognition it needs as a political issue, given the fact that humans only have 12 years to take unprecedented action on climate change.
"This has been a year where awareness and often anger over a variety of issues has led to the rise of new words and the revitalisation and adaptation of old ones," head of language content Helen Newstead told The Guardian regarding 2018's choices. "It's clear from this year's words of the year list that changes to our language are dictated as much by public concern as they are by sport, politics, and playground fads. The words in this year's list perhaps highlight a world at extremes—at one end, serious social and political concerns, and at the other, more light-hearted activities."In honor of Collins' choice, why not bridge that divide by going plogging for single-use litter, then reward yourself with a yummy vegan meal?
The Link Between Fossil Fuels, Single-Use Plastics and Climate Change https://t.co/dNvbx9e4r9 @PlasticPollutes @GreenNewsDaily— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1525383607.0
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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